How to recover after birth. Essential tips for the 4th trimester.

The fourth trimester

I’ve sat with many women in those early days, with their little bundle of newborn wonder and creation. It’s unique. Every woman has a different experience, and all of them are equally special. I am grateful to be part of their journey into motherhood. In fact, I love providing help, support and most importantly holding space for a woman during this time. The need for someone to hold space for a new mum is perhaps the most important. To be there, really be there and listen, is often the most healing. I, of course, provide a lot of other things, being a naturopath it is my job to scan for deficiencies, depression, and malnutrition. It’s what I do. Holding space is also under my professional umbrella, and it comes naturally, because when you truly listen to a woman she will tell you what she really needs, without really knowing that she does, and I facilitate that to her by helping her with her diet, recovery, supplementation, breastfeeding support and baby care advice.

I’ve sat down and scribbled together my top tips for new mothers, for post pregnancy and birth recovery – and I am not just talking body weight stuff, that comes a little later, as a ripple effect from the tips you see here. Share this with your fellow mamma’s out there if you feel they could benefit from these tips!

 

  • Eat real food. It has to be no.1 on the list. Your body and your baby are dependent on this (even if you don’t breastfeed) because food is fuel and fuel is essential for this new level of hard work. It’s 24/7, and you are caring for a baby as well as yourself. It’s tough and almost impossible without real food.
    • Bone broth & Chicken broth (1-4 cups daily)
    • Protein every few hours, in the form of chicken, lamb, beef, fish, eggs and broth. Vital for energy, physical recovery, and happy hormones. Indeed, there are vegetarian protein sources, but I recommend the heavy-duty protein during this time.
    • Soups for snacks every few hours – miso soup, chicken soup, fennel soup. Have a warm thermos that will keep it warm for hours; grazing is part of the new schedule when you have a baby on you all day.
    • Warm cooked foods. Stews rather than raw salads.
    • Carbohydrates, sourdough bread, rice, quinoa, whole rolled oats (porridge).
    • Avocado, fresh fruit (green apples) slippery elm, and psyllium husks
  • Drink tea. Because it’s a great way to hydrate and get herbal medicinal properties all in one.
    • Fennel tea for milk production and a flatulent digestive system.
    • Licorice tea to curb sweet cravings and support tired adrenal glands.
    • Nettle tea for anti-inflammatory support and jam-packed with vitamins and minerals.
    • Ginger tea for a cold, sluggish digestion.
    • Calendula for lymphatic support (tired skin, poor drainage).
    • Dandelion root for a sluggish bowel, and the (dandelion) leaf for fluid retention.
  • Bowel function can get slow and painful after birth and pregnancy. We feel terrible when that department doesn’t work well, so getting it back on track is vital! Often support is needed by a natural health practitioner, but here are some necessary first steps to do at home:
    • Slippery elm bark powder in plenty of water twice daily can help soften and soothe the bowel.
    • Get hydrated. Try coconut water for extra electrolytes.
    • Bitter foods can help too, lemon in water, apple cider vinegar in water and dandelion root tea.
    • Fiber, of course, see above
  • Supplement support is probably unavoidable at this time. It’s a big event – growing, creating and birthing a baby. Depending on your journey and body, supplements will vary. But generally:
    • A good quality fish oil is ideal to help reduce any inflammation and support your happy hormones – i.e., prevent post-natal depression.
    • Probiotics are perhaps the single most important when looking at recovery. Adding a high dose multi-strand of good bacteria to help both your body and your baby (if you are breastfeeding).
    • Iron is more often than not needed due to the extra blood volume in pregnancy, and perhaps some blood loss during birth -iron supplementation is important to monitor. Too little and you will feel exhausted, short of breath and lethargic.
    • Iodine, especially if you breastfeed to help your thyroid and your baby’s IQ and endocrine development.
    • Iodine and Iron must, must, must be checked in a urine and blood test after eight weeks post delivery.
  • Back and belly support. Your body has been expanded and pushed to the limit. Your abdomen muscles are separated, and your back is probably weak. Getting a belly band or belly wrap is a must.
  • Surrender to your loved ones and your baby. That’s it. You are at the mercy of a major life change. Your baby needs your full attention, and you can support yourself by doing as little as possible, scrap all power walks, flat tummy goals and super-mum ideas. Call upon your loved ones so they can help you. Please do yourself this favour – shelf the Instagram goals for the first eight weeks – look at them later!
  • Don’t stress just yet. Your body has changed. OMG has it changed! But so it must – so it should. Can you get back to where you were? Pre-pregnancy body. Yes! But you must do it right. Stress, incorrect exercise, and poor diets will only create frustration and stubborn weight gain. Do it right, allow for these steps to be the only steps in the first eight weeks. After eight weeks you can gradually introduce more exercise,(belly wrap on, wear your baby…. and walk walk walk) and the ‘secret ‘ is, if you eat well now your body will most likely do the right thing, slowly, and return to its pre-pregnancy body. It also makes a difference if you breastfeed or not. Get in touch for more one-on-one support on this weight support post-pregnancy.
  • Cry and laugh. Do it. You are under huge hormonal shifts and life changes. With that comes emotions – all of them. Let them out, express them! So important! This is often where a health carer, a doula, or a loved one can ‘hold space’ for you.
  • Avoid this! Give the coffee and black tea a miss for a while, stock up and fill up on real food, so you have the ‘power’ to ditch the cookies, cakes and muffins! No dairy, chilli, garlic, onion, beans, and cabbage when breastfeeding in those early first weeks.
  • Say ‘No’ to more than one or two visitors daily. Your little baby is not up for it, trust me. Visitors come with love, I know, but they also come with strong new smells, perfumes, bacteria and other foreign microbes. Not good for the little one just yet. Later – no problem! And you, dear mum, don’t need to spend any time on looking presentable or cleaning the house. Let it all go!
  • Get naked and hold your baby! The natural skin to skin contact has groundbreaking importance for your baby! Oh, if you only remember one thing let it be this one! Let you and your baby (and baby’s father!) be topless and rest together. The natural microbes on your skin help inoculate your baby’s immune and gut – this stuff is magical! And the benefit for you as a new parent is improved emotional wellbeing and a better milk supply. It’s known that the more you hold and kiss and feed your baby the happier stronger and closer the connection is between mum and bub. Because, NO, not all mothers fall madly in love with their baby at first, some have to work on it. And that is ok! This will help.
  • Talk about your fear(s). Let them (your fears) see the light. Speak to someone you trust and feel comfortable with – fears grow in the dark, long night feeds, and lack of sleep is sure to make everything worse. This is one of the reasons I started to offer phone consults. To be able to consult with new mothers before fears and worries get out of hand. You are not meant to know it all!
  • Go with the flow (not with the textbooks), argh the textbooks have all the answers right!? No, you do. You and your baby – together – can guide you through the right routines, the right cuddles and feeding times, not a book! I am all for getting help and reading books, but see them as ideas to explore and customize to what works for you and your baby. Too often I hear women say they must do as this expert says … I know that it doesn’t work that way. All families and babies are different, be open to doing it your way.
  • Connect with women. We have done this since the dawn of time. Connected with each other for support, love, advice and care. Now we do it less and less; we try to do it all alone. The super mum syndrome. It doesn’t work. You are much better off when you connect and allow for that innate wisdom that we all carry inside of us to be shared between us. Making babies, caring for babies is, after all, something we have always done and look around – we have done it well!
  • Prepare for long nights. Sleeping at night is a learning curve for you baby. Naturally and instinctively we know (as infants) to have our mother’s undivided attention and milk at this time! So that’s just how it goes – if you know this it may make it easier to cope. It’s natural, and your baby will learn to sleep through the night eventually. Until then buckle up, have snacks near you (not crunchy ones), a bottle of water and pillows to get comfortable. I had a beautiful bracelet made by my fellow mamma friends at a baby blessing ceremony that I would have next to me and hold when it was all too hard, exhausting and dark. It reminded me that they have all gone through this, and I am not alone. I would also imagine all the mothers out there doing the 2 am night feed… again…
  • Write it down. Your memory and mental clarity are not up to scratch in this period. It’s not meant to be. This time is for intuition, connecting and resting. So write down the questions you have for the midwife, the paediatrician, the GP and what you need your husband to bring home tomorrow from the shop. You will feel lighter.
  • Sleep will be compromised, big time! You need to sleep when you can, especially when your baby sleeps. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. I really struggled with that idea. And I wasn’t able to just lie down and sleep when my baby did. If you can, please do! Meditation is a fantastic tool. It’s been researched that meditation can accumulate hours of sleep in minutes. So look into this if you haven’t already. Sitting for 10-20 minutes can be as beneficial as 4 hours of sleep! I recommend Vedic meditation.
  • Wear your baby. Your life is much simpler and cosier when you do. This is how I was able to go to the toilet for the better part of 6 months! Wear that baby, and off you go. I found babywearing much more convenient than using the pram. Your baby prefers this in most cases! Staying close to mum is the only wish a newborn baby has!
  • Ask for help. Almost everyone wants to help a new mamma – but mamma’s want to do it all by themselves. Ask for a home cooked meal delivered by your best friend. Ask for the laundry to be hung by your in-law. Ask for a cup of tea to be made before your guest leaves. Ask for 5 minutes alone in the bathroom before your husband goes to work. Just ask.
  • Don’t ignore this. If you have pain and discomfort. If you feel unhappy, sad and cry on a daily basis. If you have problems breastfeeding. If you feel constipated and nauseous. Please ask for help, a GP, naturopath, Lactation consultant, birth worker i.e midwife or doula.

 

It is tough. It is painful. It is beautiful. It is wonderful. It is magical. It is everything you’ve every imaged and then some…

 

Got questions? – get in touch – annamaria@annamaria.com.au

About the Author
Hi, I’m Anna-Maria Boelskov, Nutritionist, Herbalist, Birth Doula, Yoga instructor, Podcaster and Mother to three amazing girls. I specialise in Women's health - Pregnancy, Births, post pregnancy health and last but not least Children's health. I believe in using food as medicine and when things have gone awry Herbal medicine is my first choice to help restore balance in the body.